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Peggy Brooks-Bertram and Barbara Nevergold Education. (2009) Peggy Brooks-Bertram and Barbara Nevergold ('Go, Tell Michelle').












Us 34, Michelle Obama 10, Peggy 10, Africa 6, Lilly 6, United States 5, Michele 4, Virginia 4, Barbara 4, Ms. Henley 3, Washington 3, Miriam 2, Michele Obama 2, Barack Obama 2, Buffalo 2, Ethiopia 2, Nebraska 2, Washington D.c. 2, Richmond 2, Obama 2,
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  CSPAN    Book TV    Peggy Brooks-Bertram and Barbara Nevergold  Education.   
   (2009) Peggy Brooks-Bertram and Barbara Nevergold ('Go, Tell...  

    January 2, 2010
    12:30 - 1:50am EST  

anne heller is the former editor of the review, news editor at self and fiction editor at redbook and esquire. for more information about rand ayn rand come visit coming up next to talk with coeditors and contributors of go, tell meshaal a collection of letters from african-american women from all around the country to first lady obama. this event hosted by busboys and poet bookstore in washington, d.c. last about one hour and 20 minutes. >> it is such a pleasure to be here. this is such an exciting time for us and we are so pleased we have the opportunity to come and talk with you about this book debt has been a labor of love and passion so we are going to tell a little about it but before we do i'm going to turn this over to my colleague so she can say a few words, too.
>> i'm very excited to be here, and especially excited a member of the contributors to the book have also joined. this has been a worldwide endeavor with people from all over the world, african-american women from one part of the united states to the other part and the caribbean as well as places like libya, cameroon, niger and other places in africa. so we are extremely excited about the historical occasion of the first african-american woman in the white house and the response of african-americans worldwide to the vacation. >> since peggy did mention the contributors, could we have them just stand right now? those who are here? we have laurie and didier and donna and we are going to invite them a little later in the program to say something about what this experience has meant to them and what motivated them to write to us because what we
have found over the course of the last two months since the book was published that we've developed a network, sisterhood we call the dtm sisterhood network and its comprised of these 100 women who contributed to this outstanding work and historic work as peggy mentioned, and so we want you to know them a little bit better as well and so we will have them say something has you go through the program. but we want to tell you a little bit about what motivated us to write this book and how we got started on it. we will talk perhaps about the leader in the q&a because this has been a passion of hours for ten years, the uncrowned queen is institute and maybe i will say a word about the mission. the mission of the institute is to identify, collect, preserve and disseminate the history of african-american women that we
call community builders. we've been doing this work for ten years and this actually, this work, the uncrowned queen is institute said the foundation for this book. the institute's goal is not only to reclaim the histories of these african american women community builders, and as i said to share them in primarily to share them violently world wide web, and we have a web site at which is the biographies and photos of thousands of african-american women from buffalo and new york area as well as the state of oklahoma. and we primarily and concerted we invited our community to join us in this work of reclaiming this history by giving the biographies of the community builders, and these are normally women who are well known in the community but they are the
bedrock of the community come and they are the women who were instrumental in building the institutions and as you talked about social justice for the activists, or the educators, who are the mothers of the community and very often we don't collect the histories and preserve them and so that has been our goal over the last few years. and in a sense that also is the reason why we did this book although it wasn't the exact impetus for this book. the impetus was the culmination of the whole election, the process of watching as the campaign went on, becoming very much engaged in learning more and more about michelle obama and seeing her as she merged more as a person in her own life and who supported her husband and seeing that she was unfairly
treated, and that she was denigrated on a number of occasions, that she was presented in terms of her image and in terms of her style and her intent very wrongfully, and i just have to point to the cover of the new yorker magazine which would treat her as a angry black woman, this militant black woman, this hall style in a violent black woman who could do you harm if she used a knife, used a gun and decided she was going to be combative. someone who is on patriotic, and that really, and i know not only with us that so many white women, black women, latino women, men as well, were incensed this woman should have been portrayed so negatively and unfairly. and so, probably a week after the election was over and we were all basking in the euphoria
of having the first african-american president in the history of this country and by virtue of her marital status the first african-american first lady in this nation's history. i turn to my colleague and said you know, peggy, i think this woman is going to need some support, and some encouragement and, you know, no people here are supportive of her as she enters this new phase in her life and this on chartered territory for her. so why don't we send out a request and ask african-american women to write her letters and like her poems to express not only their esteem but their encouragement and their support. so initially when we sent out the call for letters we title date dear michelle, letters of encouragement and that is what we did. we sent it over the internet because we are in a
technological world. but also because we only gave people three weeks to respond to this call. we asked them to send their letters by december 1st because our intent was to have a book published by the inauguration. so it didn't give a lot of times a week gave them until december 1st to send their letters and they did. over to hundred letters were received in that time period and we had to do some work to identify 100 letters because there were so many good letters but we could only choose 100. we were going to publish this ourselves potentially but then my colleague had the right idea and also the fact that she has a lot of calls but to the to -- huspa or something. [laughter] it's amazing she's quite right now because i'm doing all the talking, but we are going to let her talk in a moment and do
something we call tag team presentations because we have been doing this so long over the ten year period and we've worked together very closely. we normally have a field for our own presentations and what we can say in how we are going to say it but i am going to throw it over to peggy and let her proceed with the rest of the story how we got this book to the publishers. >> well we have had meetings with gary dunham, the new ceo press. we didn't know him but a friend of ours had directed him to us and he talked with us and was interested in the other books we had done and we self published those books and set up a publishing company called uncrowned queens publishing and we decided that it was time that we tell our own story and that is what we did through the uncrowned queen is institute. when i called garrey it was the same, look we've got a deal for you. if you publish this book we would like you to we need you to publish it inside of 30 days and
that must have been a crazy statement to make because we know in an academic press you're going to have two months at least of review and maybe six months later you may not be notified that the book was accepted and media a year later you may not still be ready to publish and we thought we needed to do an effort to support the new first lady that we really wanted to be able to do this book in at least 30 days if not a few days more and it turned out it was 34 days as barbara mentioned. the publisher said, i mean, if you had seen as the month of november at least beginning after november 12 through december 1st you wouldn't have recognized us. [laughter] it was a crazy seem. he asked me if we could get a schedule, so i drummed up the schedule of what it could look like if this was going to work. but we did have an idea that the
press said know we are not going to publish you then we were going to take out a loan and we had printers on standby because we knew that if you get a book written could get it printed in ten days so we want to remind all of you to get a book written you can get it printed in ten days. its ink may not be dry. [laughter] just give it a few days and will be fine. so we decided to do that and we said durham -- i said to him he was away on a conference so it took a chance calling him and he was in oregon. i said look i've scouted the internet and no one is doing this. so this is an ideal thing to do. so he said give me until monday morning and i will you know so he called monday and said this is ago we can do this. the rest of the staff about 40 people must have thought he had gone crazy because they have other books in line waiting to be published but it was a historic moment that we needed to capture and we needed to do it then and we needed to get it
done then. so after it was all ago i guess he had second thoughts perhaps and he said maybe you could send me one of these letters i could take a look at to see what the story is. [laughter] so we send him this powerful letcher that was an e-mail by our let miller smith who wrote this poem called week in anticipation of you and if i recall it starts like the anticipation of you swallowed, vomited and engorged oceanic passages, salles deep inside a dark and carious moving culture from home and tribal remembrance to the inslee of reality. that was the opening. we thought my goodness. [laughter] then it went on an extraordinary writing of recounting the history of african women from
africa to this country and leaving out all of the things and finally concluding michelle saying that we in anticipation of you now that we actually can remove this mantle from the soldiers of sojourner truth and cooper and leedy and mary ann anderson and rosa parks and on and on and on and then wheat leader sent them about 80 other letters so they could take a look at them. when we really knew we were on to something is when we couldn't stop crying. every time we got a letter it was an emotional experience. whether it was a person writing about their mother or their father or men or women writing about their children or women advising michelle obama that women had prayed for her it was an extraordinary experience. and we never, ever doubt that we could do it. but what we are uncovering that was so powerful was that black
women had this incredible network and all of this data that says we don't use the internet, not so. it is just not true. it is not only that we use the internet but black women have established this base around the world because black women were sending letters from africa and said i just got to ethiopia and i got this e-mail. we found black women traveling all over the world whether it was italy, buenos aires ethiopia they were writing to say is this the real deal? are we actually going to see these letters and some form? is it possible these could go to the white house and is this a hoax? and no, it wasn't. so it was an extraordinary response we've gotten from them and i will add and barbara mhra man with this, that another thing we were struck with was
the diversity of teams along with diversity of women. they were housewives, former university presidents. people who were on the faculty, people who work writers, not writers, people who never tried their hand at writing before. they ranged in age from 25 to 80 and they were writing things that really told us that black women had very deep sensitivities and sensibilities about this historic moment and the role they could play and some of the things and i will stabenow so that barbara -- >> some of the things she says. >> in terms of the tears, the letters and the poems bringing tears to your eyes we find that certainly in some of the reviews that have been done and some of the e-mails and letters we have received is that the themes and expressions and feelings
expressed by these women resonate with men. white men are riding and telling us they are reading these letters and they are crying, you know? white women are reading, latino women and renuart riding, for in women, the universality of the things are powerful. we didn't expect i don't think when we started putting this book together that we would have a book that had such universe reality and resonated with so many people over the world. one of the things i mentioned one of the impetus forms was the image of michele obama that was expressed on the cover. while that image wasn't just an image of michelle obama that was of all black women and we know for years, hundreds of years black women have been defiled by
images that said we are welfare queens, poor mothers, licentious and jezebel type of women and so the fact women wrote about this and talked about a 36-year-old wrote in her letter how she has been working to change the image people have of her in her work place and she writes to michelle and says you know, i can only change and educate a few. but you can change and educate the minds of many. african women wrote to say you are going to make a difference for black women worldwide, not just in the united states. so, that theme certainly resonated throughout this book and was it made with so many of us. we men wrote about we are very
spiritual people and prayer is very important, and many women wrote to say that they are praying for obama certainly for the safety of the obama family, the wellbeing and prayer is very important and they want michele to know that we prayed for you, we are praying for you and will continue to pray for you and your safety and while no one mentions a-word in terms of president obama we know it is in the back of our minds of those well wishes are expressed and women talk about ancestors and as peggy said the historical role that we have played in this country to have the ancestors looking down on obama smiling because now we have a family that is walking into the front door of the white house that was built by who?
the slaves who couldn't only come in through the back doors. and so, again, i think that the expressions and seems that resonate in the letters and poems is one that we can identify with. black women told about their stories, their families, family history as a way to connect to the obama family. both peggy and i have letters in this book. and my letter is about my father and about my father's struggle throughout his life to care for a large family, all of the jobs he had come a talented man who only had a sixth great formal education but was a minister who worked very hard at a plant, everyday got up at 4 a.m. in the morning, who was a photographer, self-taught and a musician. and this was the man who took
care of our family, was in merger. we're again black families are not seen, black males are not seen as taking care of their children and family but we have the obama family has a representation of batt. but that's been true in our community for ages. so we wanted to tell that story to let michelle know and others know in reading this book that there is this historical continuity within our families that goes back generations and now we see the evidence of that very, very differently portrayed in the obama family. and i want to see something that we have been trying to make sure people understood what kind of book this was because a number of people got this book and some of the people who reviewed the book kind of open seeing this is a book of very nice letters,
these are very sweet letters, this is nice and the feeling is kind of nice and cute. this is not a cutesy book. this is a book about women telling their stories to a woman they see as someone who is a major historic occasion that we are likely never to see again and that the stories are very complex. they are complex and that they deal with issues that often times as african-american women we have glossed over or hidden or not talked about. young women in here talk about very clearly identify interracial color line where they take a look at what it means to be a blacks and women and they say to michelle we are happy to see you because we see
you in office or us in you. and the african-american women saying it is amazing we would see a black man in the presidency but even amazing was the black man in the presidency with a black woman. that's really powerful. [applause] that is an amazing story. and as young people put that out there so to say. so there's nothing neat and cute about that. that is a long time, longstanding issue that we have to address. black women talked again about prayer and putting that as the center of this happening and reminding us that it was a prayer, that was the bridge that got us over and we should never forgets that and then they talked about the love of a black man for a black woman, and the way they talked about barack obama and owls he said, you know, honey, child, the way he
looked at her when she walked away. [laughter] as they wrote and what they were saying is they wanted black men, their black men to look at them with the same love the same desire, the same affection, and they said this and wrote this as though they were writing to michelle obama, and they were sinking to their partners i want this from you. so it puts an idea on black glove, a block man leaving a black woman and needing a black woman and most importantly that michele obama -- barack obama could show unabashedly this love not only to 75,000 people may be in denver but he could show that to billions of people around the world just as if no one was looking. it was one of the most powerful things for me.
the other powerful thing for me is these women not only talked in their own voices. they gave agency to the women who lived before them. their mothers passed away. their grandmothers, they've revived the old names of rosa parks and the others i mentioned before so the agency to the life and stories and those who come before. to me this was an extraordinary book because we saw again black women as historians. we saw them as poets when they talked a lot for michelle obama and vice versa. we saw them as people who could document this historic moment and then for us it reminded us offing's hour own experience as robert spoke of writing about her father i wrote about my aunt lily and i am looking at this wall over here with these historic figures and faces and i
was looking at the face for rosa parks because for rosa parks because several when and in this book have their own stories. it is amazing how one person can stand out. we see that as the example. millions of other have the same stories. i realize the story i wrote about my aunt lily or from her letter is my aunt lily and i together had a bus story and i said here and foley told stories of the bitter segregation in the south. i had felt it firsthand. i was with aunt lilly on vacation when the white bus driver told us to get up from our seats. we were not far enough behind the white wine that developed black from white. he said we couldn't have two seats even though i was too big to sit on her lap. he demanded we go to the back and stand. aunt lilly refused. adorned by other white passengers the driver came to the seats and threatened to
throw us out from the boss. aunt lilly never budged. he shouted obscenities and she shouted back. i've been baking pies for white folks keep all morning. i will be watching the bed sheets tonight, and now, right now we're going to be sitting in your white seats on till we get off. with my heart racing and you're joking me aunt lilly turned my head to the window and we rode home silent. [applause] so we find other women write their own boss stories but other women who recalled points in their life so important and we show themselves as writers with deep passion with deep understanding and a deep knowledge of their place in history, a place with their grandmother in history and we were most moved by women who love the idea that michelle obama was not only going to the
white house but was taking her mama with her. [laughter] and we know as black women what it means to take your mama with you. i'm looking here at caring from the association for the study of african-american life and history and i believe she just came in with her mom. she dropped as of with your grandmother. so, you know it's an extraordinary this whole experience of inviting black women to tell their feelings and write them to the first lady. and let me tell you something about the title of this book because people always ask about that. "go, tell michelle" to read as barbara mentioned earlier it started as dear michelle, letters of encouragement. the publisher said how about this title, "go, tell michelle." we don't want anybody bossing us around so it was kind of hard to take. we thought we would sleep on it, and as our news, those of us
that write poetry sometimes visit you in the early morning hours. so i had that experience and the news said it's not just "go, tell michelle," it's going to live on the mountain. and so going and doing a little bit of the research and finding they call the publisher back and say we will go with that title but it has to be comma after the word go and what it signified is number one, we were identifying someone to engage in an action and identifying a person to be the recipient of the action. you go and tell who? tell michelle and that is analogous to go tell it on the mountain, the old negro spiritual from the early 1800's and then kept alive by john and the jubilee singers and the title originally had the comma, gough, talbott on the mountain. as of this entire book from cover to cover is one that is wrapped around and ensconced in
the history of african people in this country. and i'm going to tell you a little bit about the cover because it has been asked about the cover particularly the lower photograph. so often, and to books written about michelle and the articles done by her you have the glamour poses, the glamour shots, the front on pictures of michelle, and we don't have this on this cover. what we have is michelle, engaged in conversation with an older woman. and it symbolizes what we have felt about michelle and what we know about this particular experience because we didn't know who this person was. these photographs were actually from the associated press. again, our publisher suggested them, and we looked at them and felt very comfortable with the photograph and what it symbolized. but one of our contributors who lives in richmond contacted us and said guess what?
i went to my hair dresser, and you know how it is to go to the hair dresser, you learn all kind of things up a hair dresser like a barbershop. so she went to her hair dresser and took this book and she said guess what? chaim famous. i have a letter in this book. and the hair dresser looked at the book and said you're not as famous as who is on the cover of the book. [laughter] so, michelle is talking to ms. henley, and peggy has a husband of the tour bus, she contacted ms. henley and we found out where she was in richmond virginia and i don't know if i can do in a dialogue the way peggy does so she said she would call her and if i don't do it right you tell me. so she called ms. henley and she introduced herself and said we've written this book and have your photograph on the book. she said no, child, you don't. yes, we do. really? so peggy said we have you
talking to michelle obama. how did that conversation go and this apparently occurred september 18th, 2008, when michelle was in richmond for a economic summit is henley said child, i don't know -- i don't know what she said to me because my knees were docking. i don't remember. what did she say to you? she said i told her about myself and my husband. this henley is almost 80 and the fact we had to get another job to support ourselves and we had jobs cleaning offices and she and her husband were riding to work one day and he said to her mary, i can't feel i legs, my legs are numb and he said mary, my arms are numb and he pulled the car over to the side of the road and he died.
>> we're waiting for michelle to sign our book and the other contributors and we're going to the white house. what is this? the 27th of march her agrees had another contributor come in. we're all going to the white house. we don't know when. we're going. all of the people heard us and you folks on c-span heard us. somebody tell michele. [laughter] because we want to go. [laughter] >> the black women's network is really something because you can go to our blogs at the hotel michelle blogs and people who write to us and say what is
this facebook saying? and it is a thing. and we say go for it be cut as if anybody can do it you should try it they went to the web page but yet we still did not understand or appreciate the breasts or scope of their networks. beginning with the black church and we just left the black church today. by the way the publishers say it is two months before you can get a reading or presentation set up. do not believe it. because would widen the black woman calls the minister of her church, but you have got to read it and if it is baseball saturday night you ever reading saturday morning prepared to go to a black church of sending you have a reading on monday thru wednesday. it is absolutely fantastic
because we worked as selling a book by virtue of people hearing about it and understanding what it is an understanding the importance of the historical moment. the people on the average 10 continent country say we need this in french so we have one haitian woman who wrote a review of the book in french and that is on the web page. my daughter the early and spent some time in argentina and is fluent in spanish so we have a translation of a review on our blog spot and spanish are latino friends can read about that. people all over the world have expressed interest it is a phenomenal experience but most importantly we are talking with 100 women from all over the world almost every day.
we were here in washington d.c. at the steering dade -- serengeti gallery and one of our contributors set that up and it was a brilliant affair. we want you to know the network is working and it has changed our lives and there are people that we love we have a person who is sitting in the front row her name is betty and her husband adam. she had no idea i would mention this but all throughout she lives right down the corridor of where the obama inauguration parade would be going or moving in we were invited to come to her house to overlook the balcony. so daily we were getting
photographs we're still in the process of putting up of everything that was happening along the parade route, who was going to be where and what the street looked like. it was absolutely fantastic that this network was keeping us informed as a lever in our pajamas trying to put the book together and the seal the deal. it has been absolutely extraordinary and what we want to talk about is how is this booktv looked at? people who are african-american studies and who are in american studies and causal studies and women's studies, a sociology, a feminist and gender studies should all be wanting to take a look at the book. women who specialize in understanding of biography writing and how people right. because the art of writing a letter has gone away but people remember that the
people in africa address the first lady with your excellency with the salutation. we feel we have brought that back that african american women had in their letters many years ago. i cannot say how exciting it has been and the women experience is we know those as well because we have hundreds of pages now of comments you have made to us as we work to document that historical preservation of what women actually thought what they were doing and saying. it seems like a good time to invite those who have contributed to this work to come to the microphone and say a few words about what this has meant to them and what motivated them to do this. would you like to start?
we can start with ava smith. >> greetings 22 all-purpose such a wonderful honor to me you personally pressed by feel that i know you. i feel that since november we have been communicating with the contributors pretty much on a daily basis and it has been a experience but i think you in producing this work and also for inviting me to be a contributor. two things i would like to share. what i wrote this call so much of the woman that i am. [inaudible] michelle obama was an
anomaly as a black woman, the first black woman had to be the first lady but different. she is somehow different. and that was not my experience at all. michelle obama was my aunt, my mother and dollar of the women who grump day should groom to me in north carolina which is to towns over from georgetown where her paternal grandparents are from. there is a huge connection for me to write about how michelle obama is not an anomaly been so much of the women that i already know and so much of the woman that i a.m.. that was the news behind my peace prize someone to share recently returned three weeks ago from ethiopia where i was honored by the africans international media summit as an achiever award
for my working in rebranding the image of africa. that is exactly we were doing with what you have talked about today preclude the need for us three brand that image of black women. the work is being done on the continent being read by a dr. bennett and one dr. can-do xu is here in the united states with their project and it was such an honor for me to be a part of the media summit 2009 reds this year's theme was women in the media. and to turn this award every back to the united states or i can share with all of you and my family and friends presto i absolutely believe my presentation in this book was reviewed very heavily and then honoring me to be a part of this work.
i think you again and i thank you for being here. [applause] >> hello peggy and barbara. we have email veitch other. on numerous occasions is so thrilled to have you hear in washington d.c. programme third-generation washingtonian and a mother of a beautiful four year-old daughter and i refuse to have hurt anywhere anywhere other than washington d.c. but i wanted her here. we could have went to virginia but i'm glad you are here in this magnificent city at this time. the way i was elected thomas amaya poem was standing your truth. it was a fluke the friend sent me the e-mail and eroded in 10 minutes and sent it off.
its was the divine and greater powers that took over when i was writing it. was honored to be selected. i had a lunch on the day before the inauguration and gave the book out as a gift and ordered a large cloudy and gave it to my guess. my mother lives in olsten and she has been flying the book all over the place and excited about it. them actually going to visit her there next month. okay.
i think we have a battery or technical issue on one of the microphones. it has been spectacular and the sisterhood that has sprung fourth is amazing. i am not a person that belongs to a sorority's so it has created its own a sorority price spoke on the board of governors to the women's national democratic club which is a few blocks from here i am the youngest woman on the board at the governor's club and they are excited about the book. they put it in their library and and what you all to come and speak at some point* so we will make that happen. i am excited to be a part of it and so excited for both of you and i wish you continued success and blessings me 17. [applause] >> can you speak a little
louder? >> i want to say it is good to see you in person have looking at your pictures on the web pages and talking with you over the phone and over e-mail and i am excited to meet you and to be here and be a part of this experience. it is amazing. i am not a writer provide just that the email a couple of times from a couple of different people. the first time i got it, i said this sounds like a good idea but i put it to the side and did not pay attention. then another friend sent it to me and i said i would respond because unlike a lot of people i had some fostering the election -- a lot of stocks during the election and i felt a connection to michelle
and i saw somebody different people like her i thought i will write it and to my amazement mmi letter was elected. thank you for that. this thing that i think maybe really want to write his i felt the need to express myself because she does represent so many things to so many people. in my letter i say when i look at you i see me because i felt the connection to her and barack in a predominantly white institution and not quite feeling if i belonged so looking at her in new maybe she had experienced some of that. when i see her i think of my mother because she is such a practical nurturing and caring person and that is to ic. she reminds me of my sister, my sister friends and my cousin and something
i always want to emulate, the skin who always seems to glow. she embodied so many people for me. and she represents a the best in me and in a lot of us. that is what prompted me to write the letter and thank you for allowing me to express it. [applause] >> my name is betty and i live herein washington d.c. on pennsylvania avenue. i have had a chance to observe the inaugural off
parade the last four times. and i have had a chance to wave at all of the presidency and the first lady's press the watching the planning for this one was a challenge. but i must confess my thoughts of michelle may have been a little different in that after living here so long and working for the federal government, i of had a firsthand look at all of the first ladies and all of the other people around. i know when they get into the white house people are expected them to act but there is no job description in. that is what i was concerned about when she got into the white house come if anything there is no job
description, you have to create your own. i knew she would create something that would be good for everyone. that was my thoughts for breaking. and i would like to say i have a friend here, chairman of the d.c. black history committee, i did ask shock when these ladies are coming to please use your network to see if you can get people out here. i did want to mention him. thank you for coming. we're glad you are here. [applause] >> one final contributor who is here, and miriam. >> i thought this was over
for me. speaking in public. [laughter] i am delighted to see ladies again. and i hope we will hang out again. my name is miriam and my letter is quite different to the other letters that you will note to in the book. what i felt when i was right taint it is the same. michelle obama for me looks just like my sister and acts just like my mother and grandmother. she has not disappointed at all. she is who she is. and i love that. i spent about half of my life in africa in french speaking africa. and part of it was in the public affairs counselor and my job was to teach the
africans the cost cost -- cross-country cultural about politics and i read do what we do and as we are as we are in msa most of the time i was the first woman to head up my office and invariably the first black to have the office of there is a lot of curiosity about african-americans in africa. i love doing african-american history month and i would love. sorry i retired i would love to have to been able to do not only a book signing but other programs that we would have overseas. my letter is mainly a concern, a letter to michelle to ask her to remember the women who are not here, the women in the
french speaking africa that also long to know something about us that also walt to know who we are. we are as they are but they don't understand and they don't know. every opportunity we can have to share this information with them, the better it is so i am also looking for the booktv translated into french and also working for you to speak to our audience is in french with simultaneous translation and i hope that comes about. i think you so much for accepting my letter from fell i think he's a less because off i am newly arrived back in the united states. i don't have a large group of friends but now i have a lot of sisters. thank you so much. [applause]
>> good evening. my name is chuck heck's. [applause] i work with dc black history celebration committee break couple of comments. first, a half of many african american men i think the book represents our sisters, and others, aunts, cousins, just a bunch of black women at that a black mentor geared to through michelle has shown an you ought to be congratulated for that. second, i would like to make a commitment is i will make all efforts to make sure the d.c. public library pledges this book and i will also make sure that 1/8 the american library association of black caucus aware of this book and we can
recommend it be bought for schools and libraries and i think it is something every library should have in its library and i can make that commitment in the metropolitan area we can make that happen for you. thank you. [applause] >> we want to think the contributors to our here today to step up and speak out. this is the first time for many of them to have the opportunity to see them the face to face and put a face with the name and with the e-mails that are back and forth. as everyone has said because of this book, we have the other unintended consequence so to speak which is the development of the network of sisters and the network is growing because we are continuing to receive
letters and we hope to have an online "go, tell michelle" book so to speak soon of those letters that were not able to be placed in this book because survey there are other things are other kinds of publications or activities that we need to go along with this book as we talk about. we have talked about the educational program that you have here and peggy talked about the fact we see this as an educational tool not just for college courses but high-school students certainly could use the book as a discussion guide as a means to talk about the various issues that the african american women who wrote this book have identified, but in a sense for those who did not get to their letters in this book as well. we have a lot more work to do in terms of this book and we know the network we have
established and we invite you to join the network as well. we gave you some e-mail and url for various facebook and blogs that we have. we encourage you to go online "go, tell michelle" at facebook or blog and send us a comment on the stories that are there or add your own comments about the book once you get it and have a chance to review it. we would love to have your feedback. that is important to us. we have received a lot of encouragement as a result of the feedback of how people have seen the book and what it means to them and what it says to them. >> i would like to add also that we spend 40 hours in the studio making an audio book for cd. we finish that two or three weeks ago and that should be
available early next week or late next week. as many as six or seven cds. we took turns reading your letters. i have to tell you, when you are reading these letters out loud come to hear them differently and see them differently and feel them differently. and we have an extraordinary collection the you can listen to while you're driving are sitting and doing nothing but one thing to listen. keep an eye out for those. they should be available online very soon and in bookstores. we will let you know, . >> hello. i am with women's ps group called colored pink and together with a number of women's groups we are doing a mother's a gathering in front of the white house for 24 hours from noon me nine
until may 10 than this would be the perfect book for us to be reading together and we would love to invite you and any of the contributors to join us and come and read for the buck -- from the book we have also invited the three generations of obama women to come. we hope they will join us because the book sounds marvelous by cannot wait to read it but what a place other than in front of the lighthouse to read the letters together. thank you. [applause] >> it is pretty astounding the turnout of the voices with just three weeks to come to your door. astounding it is affirmation but i wonder if you could further articulate your criteria for your choices and if there will be an opportunity for either of
you or both of you to read pieces of the letters or from the book? what is the criteria and can you share the language? >> i will tell you that we started to do the uncrowned queens book, the notion as we asked women to nominate women or submit biographies of women they thought had contributed to the building of their communities. we set no criteria. we felt leadership prices in the community and people who know who do the work and they know the stories of the people who do the work. and is that people to nominate one another and it is so good that we did that so we took ourselves out of the equations one somebody appeared on line somebody
decided it was the person's of there was no criteria. so we accepted the working man the builders and somebody believe that. in a letter started out in a way that it wanted because we did not want to have control. we had the same policy with the letters that we received. we did very little. i learned how to hate the. [laughter] people use a comment in the craziest way is. but we did not to fool around with the letters but occasionally we may steal a word. remember distinctly somebody use the word studentcam as and i thought they meant to the word beckons and she was certain preferred you were
not really reading these so absolutely we're trying to understand you are saying. we did that kind of editing but overall the letters came and went and went into the book exactly the way that we got them. secretary was it was a good read, a diverse, not a question of throwing anything out but a question of what we could fit in and we agonize over the 100 letters or more than we did not include. but we did include them into the audio book and we're still collecting letters and would love to still have letters because it ain't over. we feel that talking to women in real understand they still want to have their say in this. we are transporting -- transforming our web page antitrust did i get to your question?
>> [inaudible] >> yes. my wonderful and louise passed away in a few years ago and have lived for a century. her grandfather was a slave in virginia. for more than 40 years issue at worst in a bakery in virginia. when i was a child shea made visits to my home in baltimore whenever my family fell on hard times often
come of a mother would send for my aunt lily. she would always come. we would meet her at the greyhound bus station precaution never traveled light she had several suitcases with buckles tied together to secure the contents. filled to busting the suitcases had apples and pears from her front yard in virginia she also had a shoulder of pork wrapped in paper placed inside the burlap bag and it was a prized possession british she came to feed a hungry family and was always right on time for the we could not wait to get her to the house as she climbed the steps around the corner from the johns hopkins medical school, she called up for the children to get the paring knives to appeal the apples and pears. she called for the big pots to will flow fodder for the canning jars. plan and the lake pulled on
her canvas apron, we knew you have many tasty treats perched on the edge of a not so steady chair or the aluminum tub upside-down aunt lilly would place the empty pots between her legs and have no shame that her nylon's at the knees were exposed. when the children laughed she said i am not here for fashion. with mere lightning speed she began to peel the apples and pears and in no time they were dropping like flies into the pot between her legs. talking fast, aunt lilly told a story of segregation in the south. but then hours later still and her traveling had she had the apples and pears are ready to be preserved. we're coveted by the smell of allspice, a close, sugar and the site of aunt lilly
putting the pot on the stove we settled down and aunt lilly was back in town. she was our second of there. with the bubbling and sickening on the stove and the jars ready from filling she took the wrapping from the pork and slicing the meat like it was cold leave she showed us how to make it last for the winter. your mother may join you in the white house to care for your girls and support you in this job i was a static. young people can always use a second mother. it reminded me of aunt lilly supporting my mother during difficult times it as a first lady will definitely be in accelerating and difficult times. i am writing this letter for aunt lilly she did not get schooling but she gave a lot of love and you have to be a second mother. 5010 was alive she would say do not let anyone push her around and make sure you take care of her babies.
while your mom does not have to bring apples or peers into suitcases to the white house she will be toting bushels of love for your entire family. written 40 -- for my aunt lilly. >> if you go to my blogger facebook you'll hear and see photographs of aunt lilly i am also reading the letters that i wrote so go to the blog for some good stuff. >> it is all wonderful. i have laryngitis so i will try to get through this. i just want to talk about what you mean two the book. my friend here told me about the book after she had sent
in her selection but she was selected. the day the book came we were together in the car and i read her poem then i read part of another. i come from theater and film. i am an actress and singer and director. i said this is a staged reading. we have to put this on stage. i got in touch with the two queen mother's and after a lot of going back and forth, wii agreed that it very well could be a staged reading and we are in the process of getting that done right now with some very fine actresses stage in our
way. we're not doing 100 and we're hoping to get them in front of the first lady. we have elector at the white house right now. there is a lot of praise and admiration for michelle in this book. it is all warranted but along with that praise there is a balance there because she dries out of the women all of these experiences because of the path that she took their able to give life to things like aunt lilly i had one and that sent mashed potatoes through the mail proposal i know that story. [laughter] and it is all very, very wonderful because it is the
history never put into the history books in fact, we should come up with another word for it because it is in some way that life lives between the covers. it is / it is motion that has become the it seems it is time for change perhaps we should think about what we call this but it is definitely a seminal work that needs to be documented a number of different ways and needs to continue to grow. [applause] >> will you have a sequel and could we hear the young woman's poem i am dying to
hear her teeth to read. was also going to hint at what the sequel may be go tell grand mal. [laughter] >> there is a sequel and actually it is the stories behind the stories because we have walked this journey, the path that we are on to a new page of what we call the history your herstory or some other word we have not come up with. but yes. we do have another book in mind what is to document what this book has been there may be a third book yet to come.
we did not mention the "journal." >> one of the things, the press is talking to us about, we have to say it is extraordinary because it isn't every day a publisher or the ceo of the academic press will jump on the book like this and say let's roll and get it done. that is not every day that that happens. so we sent out signs to the young man who came out of the university of nebraska come university of nebraska press to jump on the idea and never got off of it and gave us the opportunity to do a lot of things. and then we just stood back and watch. it was fantastic not like somebody came in and said turn this idea on its head. first of all, we would not have gone for its but secondly it was never anything like that.
we think the university of buffalo forgiving s.c. opportunity with uncrowned we could not have done that without them. it has been extraordinary coming together. but one important thing to look at is the stories that people have told us come mainly the women of how they came to this to be teeing new and it hearing your stories is another story about the story. when we went to the bookstore in harlem to have all the sisters from new york to come and bring their mothers, fathers and lovers and husbands and children and grandmothers and standing up and signing books with us and telling us that how their lives were changed and run by there comes a to me and said she
is alive again and she is writing again. it broker writer's block. she is on the road again. there are so many powerful stories that we heard that we wanted a chance to document. we just do not want to lose them at all. >> the idea withstood journal it will allow us to bring these stories for word a lot quicker because of the book takes at least 34 days. [laughter] but the "journal" articles might take 20. we're throwing of little different avenues have to get the stories out. >> we should tell you that barbara and buy both developed a new appreciation for one another in this work. it is something we will find time to think about more to write about because what
moves one person does not necessarily move the other. but then we spent time arguing for some betty. no. we have to have her. why? because this goes this way and it is nowhere else. i don't know. sleep on it. our relationship changed in a good way and we learned we were and the things that made us cry and of the things that twisted us up inside. it was quite an experience of looking at this and knowing the things that will rock your approach and coming to the appreciation all of this is a great and different for each one of us. for me that was a profound experience for our learned a lot about her and she learned a lot about me. we would like to incorporate
that into the next book to see if we can come out on the other end of it. >> are there any other questions? >> poetry? >> she is a good reader. >> you do not have to convince us. [laughter] absolutely. >> what i would ask is that you read a portion. [inaudible] >> why don't you read yours? >> again it is call so much of the woman i am and starts
on page 125. up from the pine trees and tall grass and seaweed surrounding the people and a little town in the south sprang forth a humidity that is you and to the hollowed always and the rooms and the status of preserving the privilege and i the buildings of north he reveal an intelligence that is 99 but back on the home front with the busy streets and the day the duties of a professional life mother/daughter sister friend, you found a way to graceful they bring balance and duty to a world that is sometimes cold and unforgiving. for so many you paint a different story brick repaint a different picture and tell another story. for me, you represents sell many of the women that i know and so much of the woman that i am. the power queen the warrior
mothers are proud and the favored children of the future are with you and they are blessed. the visionary hard-working and strong black women of today are within you and we are thankful. so much of the women that you are, we are. so much of the elegance come a dignity and strength and character that you display b.c. in ourselves every day. when the days become and less and dreary and await seems too hard to bear look in the near and sea of the women that have come before you and made it under dreadful circumstances brazil of the children who have yet to come and know that you shine a light so bright that will make their worldly more livable place. see me cheering you on and giving new hope and holding your hand and reminding you daily that strong women keep getting stronger and at the end of the day when the outside world is gone and you must decide to hug your
children and kiss your husband and protect your husband -- mother and please no always so much of the woman that you are, i am and i am here sending love. [applause] >> dear michele stand in your truth when the world wants a piece of you or a piece of him and a piece of them with all of you and all of him and all of them one to negative zero and none of him or none of them stand in your truth in his truths and in their churches and remember who you are and who he is and who they are and remember that you want him and he once you and you both
love them more than life. remember when you have had it with yourself and had it with him and them stand in your truth and in his truth and in their troops. two yourself and remember your roots and ground yourself and walk on solid ground and stand with the creators and stand in your chirrs. [applause] >> we have one more than i think we will sign some box. >> dear michele, you are me when i look at uic me i see the young african-american woman who threw good family values and strong roots and perseverance has come into her own.
when i look at you i see my sister the sister who i knew what always wanted the best for me especially when i made choices i had absolutely no business making. i see my mother a strong pragmatic practical woman who knows how to keep it together. pricey the woman who cares for other people of i see my favorite cousin the beautiful one whose whole being always seems to grow and to laughs and smiles and i always want to emulate. when i look at you i see the friend i can talk to and laugh and cry with. you are two of the few precious others that i look for. you are me. through you so many of us see ourselves in thank you for allowing me and the world to see all of this. thank you for black america you have presented to the world for all of the history you and barack have and will